OmniGraffle 5 Keyboard Shortcuts Cheat Sheet

For all you Grafflers out there, Nick Finck has created a sweet single page cheat sheet illustrating OmniGraffle’s numerous and well hidden keyboard shortcuts. Nick took the multi-page Help file provided by Omni and consolidated all of the tips into a single tabloid poster that you can print and stick on your wall to make life easier. More info at the OmniMouth.

Download the graffle directly here or from the OmniGraffle Extras page.

OmniGraffle Tip: Change Keyboard Shortcuts

Here’s a tip that I blurted out on Twitter in a moment of frustration. I use both Adobe Illustrator and OmniGraffle, and one thing that repeatedly trips me up is using the keyboard shortcuts for grouping/ungrouping between the two apps. Illustrator uses Cmd-G to group, and OmniGraffle uses Shift-Cmd-G. They add the Shift key because CMD-G is assigned to search again which I don’t use all that often.

The fix for this, as well as for any Mac application is simple.

1) Open System Preferences > Keyboard and Mouse settings.

2) Select Keyboard Shortcuts in the control bar. Now scroll down to Application Keyboard Shortcuts.

3) Click the Add button and you’ll see the dialog above to add keyboard shortcuts. I’ve shown you how to re-assign the Group command.

4) Now re-assign the commands for UnGroup and Find as above or using whatever seems intuitive to you.

Now you won’t need to know you OG from your AI keyboard shortcuts.

Dear Designer, You Suck

Khoi Vinh wrote an entry on taking the need for criticism inside the studio, and extending that openness in engaging in critical dialogue to discussion with peers outside of your working groups.

Like it or not, you can’t have a serious discourse about an art form until you have people whose sole involvement in that art form is criticism. You need, in effect, an independent press. Actually, to be clear, what you need is an economic model that can support a corps of passionate, clear-thinking individuals who are dedicated to vigilantly watching over the progression of the medium. Recent troubles aside, this is why art, film and architecture have achieved such great heights in our society: those art forms are economically robust enough to support a vibrant critical class.

Design is far from having that. Especially the design forms to which I’m closest: graphic design, Web design, interaction design. We have lots of smart people writing actively about design, pushing ourselves to do better design, but we have very few design critics who remain apart from the practitioners. We need more.

I, like many of you I’m sure, succeed because of the design critique. The design crit allows us to view design solutions among peers who can vet every aspect of what’s been designed–the good and bad–from the perspective of someone other than the designer presenting the concept. Questioning what we’ve done and why and suggesting alternative views that we might not have considered allows the designer to move forward and find the right design. If you do creative work to be used by others, you can’t understimate the value of peer criticism.

But the design crit is a civil dialogue and public criticism outside of the controlled environment of the studio can be very different, and often personal. Opening up to criticism in the general sense, is partially why I take the risk of blogging. The risk in blogging is opening yourself up to criticism by sharing what you believe when you write or sharing how and what you do when you design. Something in what Vinh writes resonates with me. I’ve always flinched a little when I’ve read people criticize stuff I do indirectly, e.g. on Twitter, on comments in some blog. But I seek it out. And I try to react to it in a civil way because I learn from it.

There’s something about the idea of being open to criticism outside of teams you’re directly involved with, and feeling open to being critical. If you know my writing style, you know I can be tentative and polite about things I disagree with in the showcase entries. But I do think that the entries are most interesting when there’s something to have a dialog about. To be sure, I’m not creating a design pattern gallery here. I’m documenting examples of the good, the different, and the not so good in order to find things that challenge my ideas and see what I feel about them. Somewhere in there there is criticism.

I like what Khoi is writing here, because it feels like he’s inviting a change in the tenor of our discussion by saying that he wants more of it. I’m certainly interested in doing the same, particularly as it regards user interface design.

Hunkering: Putting Disorientation into the Design Process

Jared Spool talks about "visual disorientation," a designer's technique for evaluating your design work in the middle of a process. It's certainly common to see designer's tack up pieces of paper around their project space, e.g. schematics, pictures with references to other objects that provide inspiration, etc. Hunkering, however, is more of a technique to create disorientation and change in one's perspective momentarily, to assess what you've done.

Visual disorientation is a fast way to identify the places where things don't quite match up. Hunkering, in its simplest form, is a chance to force a moment of visual disorientation -- to make things seem foreign and out of place.

Hunkering gives the designer a chance to get lost in the reality of their design. Like visiting a vacation spot you've only seen pictures of, the initial impression takes a little getting used to. Then, once you've had a chance to orient yourself, to find the familiar elements you were expecting and place them relative to each other, the vacation spot becomes more comfortable. But in those places where the pictures didn't match the reality, that's what will stand out.

Hunkering, and its subsequent visual disorientation, can be a crucial tool for the designer. Used properly, it can prevent downstream errors and give new insights into the final results.

Some of the ways we may hunker is by simulating walkthroughs, prototyping, or rendering parts of rough ideas in higher fidelity. It's a process of: stepping back, looking, and seeing the forest for the trees; thinking, questioning, and orienting; and finally returning from the mountain top view to start back into work.

UX Vision: The design superpower also known as The Squint Test

UX Hero points out a technique that you may not be using, but should consider. Stepping back and squinting to evaluate your work is something I was told to do repeatedly when I was first learning to paint, and is something I still do today as an interface designer. It helps you see the whole of your screen and look for anything that stands out, and see what needs to draw more attention, depending on the priority and hierarchy of your page elements.

It’s certainly useful for visual designers, but can be just as useful for interface designers. Another thing I do related to this is zoom out and turn my wireframes into visual thumbnails on the screen.

Team Whiteboarding with Twiddla

Twiddla is an easy to use collaborative whiteboard service, but it’s really got the potential to be much more. The whiteboard lets you mark up websites and graphics, and even use a drag-drop library of interface elements for working on interface concepts collaboratively. You communicate with others in the meeting with the chat window, and you can also use built in audio-conferencing capabilities. Very impressive, and free. Would make sense for there to be options for private meetings as well as embedding the whiteboard into your CMS or intranet.

I just gave it a try and the images they’ve provided are very restrictive. They’re basically just graphics you drag in, but they can’t be scaled outside of their original dimensions properly since they’re bitmaps. It’s also not a true prototyping environment like Balsamiq or iPlotz, since there are no properties for the elements. The best you can do is draw or even upload your own bitmap elements. It’s truly only a whiteboard. That said, the drawing capabilities are decent.

To give it a try, click the Twiddla button: Twiddle this page!

Sketchbook In Stock (Set 2)

The sketchbooks are back in stock. In this round, I've also made a handful with white elastic bands, which I think looks pretty cool contrasting against the black covers. I've also started including a barebones option without elastic, inner pocket, or pencil. The standard option is $16 and the barebones option is $2 less.

The standard option is hand-crafted by me here in Brooklyn, so they'll sell out faster than the barebones options. This is essentially the same sketchbook I've been making for myself for the past year, only now with the aid of printing and binding done by a printer. As you may know, the notepad production was done as a "beta test" product, with a few iterations before getting the design right. I'm doing the same with these, which is why the product gets slightly tweaked each time it's sent out, until the grid and the packaging is right. For those interested, the graph paper storyboard and wireframe grid notepads are now being printed and will be available for purchase via Amazon next month.

A note about shipping. If you are outside the US or Canada, I apologize, but there really aren't any options to ship outside the US that are affordable presently for the scale of production I'm doing. In the past I shipped USPS First Class International, and some orders got lost in route. The only trackable option is Priority Mail.

Keep in mind that some of these products are "beta tests" of the product idea, are produced in small quanitity, and may be hand crafted. If there is enough demand, I will seek better fulfillment options, as is being done for the wireframe and storyboard notepads. But for now, I can only ship affordably within the US and Canada. Sorry about that.